History of Forensic Science

Ian Burney, Chris Hamlin

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingEntry for encyclopedia/dictionary


Forensic science, broadly the application of expertise to dispute resolution, is universal. While technical capacities have evolved rapidly in recent decades, controversies remain about its place in legal proceedings. Beginning with those controversies, this article explores utilization of expert testimony in European and American law from the Middle Ages, highlighting the interplay between evolving institutions based on Roman/canon law or on common law. It considers the effect of contingencies and contradictions on the status of expert knowledge, the role of research on forensic science, and the sites and character of professionalization. Later sections review the profound role of popular culture in forensic science and prominent classes of forensic techniques. It closes with the recent discussions among forensic professionals on the philosophy of forensic science, treating these in terms of the conflicts and contingencies in its history.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEncyclopedia of Forensic Sciences
EditorsMax Houk
Place of PublicationAmsterdam
PublisherElsevier BV
Number of pages10
ISBN (Print)9780128236789
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • Adversary process
  • Civil law
  • Common law
  • Criminalistics
  • Criminology
  • Daubert rules
  • Evidentiary admissibility
  • Expertize
  • Forensic medicine
  • Hans Gross
  • Inquisition
  • Medical jurisprudence
  • Paul L. Kirk
  • Philosophy of forensic science


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